The Nightmare

by lizard


Today my wife informed me a kid told my son “I’m going to shoot you with a gun” at school. My son is in preschool.

Obviously, some kind of conversation will be happening, and it will start with reporting this to the school. I would also like to know if the parent(s) own guns, and if they do, I would like to know how they secure them.

As a parent, do I have a right to know this? I don’t know.

Over the weekend, my parents saw The Hobbit. My mom told me she saw lots of kids there, including a few who looked as young as 5 or 6. During the movie, she heard crying.

There have been some big numbers about exposure to violence worth repeating here:

By the time kids enter middle school, they will have seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 more acts of violence on broadcast TV alone.

As a high schooler, I had plenty of righteous indignation over my parents objections to my musical tastes. I loved Pantera and Marilyn Manson, and even listened to stuff like Morbid Angel and Deicide.

I also played an early first-person shooter game called Marathon, though the carnage was nothing compared to what exists today.

But with Columbine, 9/11, and the subsequent horrors that have been unleashed, our social environment is more infused with violence than its ever been, especially when it comes to “entertainment” (insert comment about Zero Dark Thirty here)

The picture that heads up this post is from a book written and illustrated by Mercer Mayer, titled There’s A Nightmare In My Closet, first published in 1968. My wife checked it out at the library last week.

But when she was reading it, and the little boy with his cap gun and little army helmet said “Go away, Nightmare, or I’ll shoot you,” she decided it wasn’t getting subsequent reads.

It may be one little choice to minimize my kids’ exposure to the violent impulses that exist, impulses they will eventually be exposed to in a culture that glorifies violence, but it’s better than feeling totally powerless.


  1. d.g.

    And why don’t we remember the subtle deaths? The quiet ones that shake the ephemeral and existential and expressionistic world? Why can we say where we were when Kennedy died and King died and the shuttle fused like a firework and the twinned towers fell like sand? Why can’t we say where we were on March 28th, 1985 when Chagall flew through flowers like an acrobat and drew blue horses to his side and a bride in black on her birthday and heard red roosters crow louder than Abraham? Why don’t our parents pull us aside when an artist passes over the passionate palette that shakes this unworthy world?

  2. Turner

    I just sent this letter off to my local rag.


    In a hunting state like Montana, it’s incredibly hard to have a conversation about gun violence. Many people have been persuaded by the gun lobby, especially the NRA, to view any such discussion as part of a plot to take away their hunting rifles.

    This is nonsense, of course, but a lot of people believe it.

    In the past year we’ve witnessed a number of horrific mass killings, the most recent one at an elementary school in Connecticut. The problem seems to be that there are so many dangerously mentally ill people, mostly young men, who have such easy access to weapons capable of killing a lot of people in a few seconds.

    What can we do about this problem?

    I don’t pretend to have a solution. But I know who stands in the way of finding one. It’s people like Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who thinks Americans have a Second Amendment right to own virtually any sort of weapon, including hand-held rocket launchers.

    It’s organizations like the NRA, who argue that even convicted felons and those on the Homeland Security watch list should be allowed to purchase guns, which they deify as though they were religious symbols rather than lethal weapons.

    And it’s idiots like Mike Huckabee, who thinks public schools are “a place of carnage” not because of dangerously disturbed people barging into them with semi-automatic weapons but because “we have systematically removed God” from them.

    I hope responsible gun owners will ignore the ignorant noise coming from the likes of the NRA, Scalia, and Huckabee. I hope they’ll join others in encouraging lawmakers to work toward making guns less accessible to those who should never be allowed to even touch them.

    Richard Turner

  3. Steve W

    Liz, I had friends who wouldn’t allow their kids (sons) to have toy guns of any sort. That lasted until they were 7 and 5 or so and the oldest started sculpting pistols with his teeth out of his PB&J sandwich and pointing it and saying “bang bang!”

    It’s endemic.

    • lizard19

      I know the quickest way to stoke interest is to forbid. I want my kids to be able to exist in the real world, not in an illusory bubble where we impose our fear on them to keep them insulated from harm.

      I think education will be more effective than restriction in the long run anyway, so I wouldn’t be opposed to teaching them how to handle a gun (dad would have to take a few classes first) when they are both much older.

      I guess I thought I would have a bit more time with certain aspects of the culture they are absorbing before figuring out how to start trying to explain it to them.

      it doesn’t help some of it is damn near unexplainable.

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